Foster leads Huskies with 14 tackles, two for loss in 24-7 victory over UCLA.
Minutes before kickoff, after her son had been introduced with the rest of the Washington seniors, linebacker Mason Foster’s mother, Margaret, standing near midfield, grabbed his hand. She made him run with her, for almost 50 yards, down the sideline toward the Lake Washington end of Husky Stadium.
This would be the final time she would watch her son play a college home game, and she wanted to feel what he was feeling.
“She’s seen me do that before every game, and she wanted to see what it was like,” Foster said after Washington’s dominating 24-7 win over UCLA. “She’s crazy. That’s where I get all my craziness from. But I love my mom to death.
“It was exciting for me to see how excited she was to be out there and how excited she was for me. She probably wanted to take a shot at someone. Probably wanted to hit somebody.”
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After they finished this impromptu, celebratory sprint, Margaret Foster, wearing her son’s No. 40 jersey, hugged Mason one long, last good-luck hold.
Given the chance, everybody inside the stadium who braved the dire traffic warnings and the wintry cold should have done the same.
For the past few years, Mason Foster has been the best thing about Washington football.
Lightly recruited out of Seaside, Calif., he was the linebacker who got away from USC and California and all of the Pac-10 schools who hunger for a hitter as fierce as Foster.
He came to Washington at the lowest point in the school’s last 40 years.
The football program still was reeling from the mistakes of the Rick Neuheisel era and still scrambling to understand the logic of Tyrone Willingham.
Through his years at Washington, Foster has seen too many lopsided losses. He has been on the field for too many of his teammates’ missed tackles and blown assignments.
But he has persevered through the adversity. He has made plays when all those around him were missing.
He deserves roses like so many other great Huskies linebackers all the way back to Rick Redman enjoyed. Instead, he’s had to settle for being a bridge between Washington’s dark days and its brighter future.
“I think Mason embodies all of the things that we want in all of our guys,” coach Steve Sarkisian said. “If you watch him play, never once does he look at the scoreboard. It doesn’t matter what the score is. It doesn’t matter what color uniform the other team’s wearing. It doesn’t matter what uniform we’re wearing. He just plays the next down.”
Foster is the necessary foundation for a rebuilding team, just two years removed from an 0-and-12 season.
“He has a unique ability to focus on the task at hand,” Sarkisian said. “That’s why he plays so well. He doesn’t get caught up in what just happened. He just plays that next snap. And in turn he has fun playing football.
“I don’t know if any of our guys smile nearly as much as he does. He just loves playing ball. He focuses on the next snap, and that’s important for us because that allows our young players to see the senior and the way he plays and the way he focuses on what’s important.”
Foster is the Huskies’ glue.
“He’s like a big brother to all of us,” running back Chris Polk said. “Off the field he’s like everybody’s role model. When I was a freshman, I would live with him and let him show me the ropes. Show me how to be great. He taught me to just go out there and just ball out. Regardless of the score, you go out there 100 percent.”
Foster’s last game at Husky Stadium, on Thursday night against UCLA, looked like so many of his previous games here.
In the first half alone he had 11 tackles. Late in that half he combined with Cort Dennison to drop UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin for a 6-yard loss.
He was all over the place, sticking like a tattoo to Franklin. He started the second half chasing down Franklin in the Bruins’ backfield for a 6-yard loss.
It’s surprising when Foster doesn’t make the tackle. He was the best Husky on the field again.
With two games left in his college career, Foster has 128 tackles, the most by a Husky since James Clifford finished the 1989 season with 168 tackles.
And in his last game inside his home stadium, Mason Foster got to celebrate as if this win meant roses. The hardiest among the crowd stayed and cheered him off the field, a final, full-throated thank you.
“I’m really proud of Mason and I’m happy for him,” Sarkisian said. “He’s been doing it all year, and for him to get this moment to come off that field at Husky Stadium and run up that tunnel with that win, I think that’s great.”
And somewhere in the stands, Margaret Foster was watching and wishing she could join him for that last victory sprint.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org